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E05759: Venantius Fortunatus, in a poem on the oratory dedicated to *Gabriel (the Archangel, S00192) by Gregory (bishop of Tours 573-594) in Artannes (north-west Gaul), lists the relics housed there. Poem 10.10, written in Latin in Gaul, 576/594.

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posted on 2018-06-17, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Venantius Fortunatus, Poems 10.10 (Versus de oratorio Artannensi, 'Verses on the oratory of Artannes')

Magna beatorum retinet haec terra talenta,
   divinis opibus dives habetur humus.
Pars dextra angelico Gabrielis honore coruscat,
   gaudia qui mundo detulit ore sacro,
quando aeternalem concepit virgo salutem,                         5
   dona redemptoris nuntius iste ferens.
Laeva est parte lapis tumuli, quem corpore Christus
   pressit morte brevi, victor eundo patri.
Hic quoque reliquiis micat ille Gregorius almis,
   qui probus igne redit nec pice mersus obit.                      10
Sunt etiam Cosmas, Damianus et ipse, salubres
   non ferro artifices, sed medicante fide.
Est Iulianus item, gladio iugulatus amico,
   plebs quem Arverna colens arma salutis habet;
Martinusque sacer, retinet quem Gallicus orbis,                    15
   cuius Christum operit dimidiata chlamys,
se tunica spolians nudum qui vestit egenum,
   unde datae sibi sunt alba topazus onyx,
quae meruere aliqui hoc in corpore cernere sancti,
   gemmarumque sonus quod patefecit opus.                     20
Additur hic mentis cum nomine Victor opimis,
   munere martyrii qui tenet alta poli;
hic veteris virtute viri nova palma Niceti,
   urbem Lugdunum qui fovet ore, sinu.
Horum pastor opem corde, ore Gregorius orat,                  25
   vivat ut altithrono vir sine fine deo.

'This spot possesses a great wealth of the blessed; the earth is rich with the riches of God. The right side shines brightly with the glory of the angel Gabriel, who brought joy to the world from his sacred lips, when a virgin conceived eternal salvation, and who carried the message of the redeemer’s bounty. (7) On the left is a stone from the tomb that Christ with his body burdened briefly in death before returning in victory to his father. Here too that Gregory shines with his bountiful relics who by his virtue emerged unscathed from fire and when plunged in pitch did not die. (11) Also here are the physicians Cosmas and Damian, who practice not with a scalpel, but by the healing power of faith. Again there is Julian, whose throat was cut by a kindly sword - in honoring him the people of Auvergne win the weapons of salvation - (15) and saintly Martin, whom the Gallic realm claims for itself, whose halved cloak served to cover Christ, who stripped off his tunic to clothe a naked poor man, for which he received pearls, topaz, and onyx, which some were found worthy to see on the body of the saint, while the sound of the jewels revealed what had happened. (20) Present here too is Victor, victorious in name and in his rich virtues, who as a reward for martyrdom possesses the heights of heaven; and here too Nicetius, whose palm is new but powers of long standing, who protects the city of Lyon with voice and embrace. (25) Gregory begs for the aid of all these with heart and with speech, to live forever, though a man, with God the high-enthroned.'

Text: Leo 1881, 244-245. Translation: Roberts 2017, 681 and 683.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Gabriel, the Archangel : S00192 Kosmas and Damianos, brothers, physician martyrs of Syria : S00385 Julian, martyr of Brioude : S00035 Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397 : S00050 Victor, martyr of Marseille, and his companion martyrs : S

Saint Name in Source

Gabriel Cosmas, Damianus Iulianus Martinus Victor Nicetius

Type of Evidence

Literary - Poems


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Major author/Major anonymous work

Venantius Fortunatus

Cult activities - Places


Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Other specified miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves)

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic


Venantius Fortunatus was born in northern Italy, near Treviso, and educated at Ravenna. In the early 560s he crossed the Alps into Merovingian Gaul, where he spent the rest of his life, making his living primarily through writing Latin poetry for the aristocracy of northern Gaul, both secular and ecclesiastical. His first datable commission in Gaul is a poem to celebrate the wedding in 566 of the Austrasian royal couple, Sigibert and Brunhild. His principal patrons were Radegund and Agnes, the royal founder and the first abbess of the monastery of the Holy Cross at Poitiers, as well as Gregory, the historian and bishop of Tours, Leontius, bishop of Bordeaux, and Felix, bishop of Nantes, but he also wrote poems for several kings and for many other members of the aristocracy. In addition to occasional poems for his patrons, Fortunatus wrote a four-book epic poem about Martin of Tours, and several works of prose and verse hagiography. The latter part of his life was spent in Poitiers, and in the 590s he became bishop of the city; he is presumed to have died early in the 7th century. For Fortunatus' life, see Brennan 1985; George 1992, 18-34; Reydellet 1994-2004, vol. 1, vii-xxviii; PCBE 4, 'Fortunatus', 801-822. The eleven books of Poems (Carmina) by Fortunatus were almost certainly collected and published at three different times: Books 1 to 7, which are dedicated to Gregory of Tours, in 576; Books 8 and 9 after 584, probably in 590/591; and Books 10-11 only after their author's death. A further group of poems, outside the structure of the books, and known from only one manuscript, has been published in modern editions as an Appendix to the eleven books. For further discussion, see Reydellet 1994-2004, vol. 1, lxviii-lxxi; George 1992, 208-211. Almost all of Fortunatus' poems are in elegiac couplets: one hexameter line followed by one pentameter line. For the cult of saints, Fortunatus' poems are primarily interesting for the evidence they provide of the saints venerated in northern Gaul, since many were written to celebrate the completion of new churches and oratories, and some to celebrate collections of relics. For an overview of his treatment of the cult of saints, see Roberts 2009, 165-243.


This poem was written on the occasion of the dedication of an oratory of Gabriel the Archangel at Artannes in the territory of Tours, built by Gregory, the historian and bishop of Tours (573-594). Poems 10.5 (see E05756) was written on the same occasion, but is addressed to visitors of the building. On Fortunatus' poems for Gregory of Tours, see George 1992, 124-131; Roberts 2009, 269-283; Roberts 2015. Strangely, Gregorius, the first saint mentioned in the poem cannot be identified, and there is no obvious saint with a similar name, who is known to have been plunged into pitch.


Editions and translations: Leo, F., Venanti Honori Clementiani Fortunati presbyteri Italici opera poetica (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi 4.1; Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1881). Roberts, M., Poems: Venantius Fortunatus (Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 46; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017). George, J., Venantius Fortunatus, Personal and Political Poems (Translated Texts for Historians 23; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1995). Reydellet, M., Venance Fortunat, Poèmes, 3 vols. (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1994-2004). Further reading: Brennan, B., "The Career of Venantius Fortunatus," Traditio 41 (1985), 49-78. George, J., Venantius Fortunatus: A Latin Poet in Merovingian Gaul (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992). Pietri, L., La ville de Tours du IVe au VIe siècle. Naissance d'une cité chrétienne (Rome: École Française de Rome, 1983). Roberts, M., The Humblest Sparrow: The Poetry of Venantius Fortunatus (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009). Roberts, M., "Venantius Fortunatus and Gregory of Tours: Poetry and Patronage," in: A.C. Murray (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2015), 35-59.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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